An interview with author Jamie Baywood
Californian Jamie is the writer of memoir Getting Rooted in New Zealand, which tells the story of her impulsive decision to move to New Zealand to avoid the dating scene. You can find out more about the book here or follow her on Twitter @jamiebaywood.
Your book, Getting Rooted in New Zealand is about your decision to move from California to New Zealand to avoid the dating scene, after reading that it has 100,000 fewer men. What was it like writing a book based on your own experiences?
I know it sounds like a crazy reason, but I need a serious change in my life and felt I needed to leave the country to do so. I started dating my first boyfriend when we were fourteen and the relationship ended when I was twenty-three. I had never dumped someone and didn’t have the life skills to do so. Between ages twenty-three and twenty-six, I would only date guys I knew I could dump easily. Not surprisingly, only dating guys with clear and abundant flaws that were easy to dump, created a lot of chaos and drama in my life.
When I was twenty-four, I had my second boyfriend who I call Hank, in real life his named rhymed with Hank. Hank had a drug dealer that sincerely went by the name Stank. I took Hank to rehab, after that I had a string of crazy suitors and ex’s. If you had Hank and Stank in your life, what other choice do you have, but to leave the country and become an author?
All of the characters are based on real people. Some of the names of individuals and organizations, but not all, have been changed to preserve privacy. I emailed most of the characters in the book and asked for their permission to include stories about them and to use their names. My husband (a Scottish man I met in New Zealand) is the only character in the book that vetoed certain stories. I married a shy man!
The hardest part has been trying to promote the book while simultaneously attempting to stay anonymous. My life is literally an open book, but Jamie Baywood is a pen name. I haven’t told my family or husband’s family that I’ve written or published a book. They think I’m just living in the UK working on a MA in Design studying book covers.
I am rather enjoying leading a double life. I am living in a different country from my family and my husband’s family so that aids the author secret. I have a few relatives on both sides of the family having babies this year, so both sets of families are mostly talking about the imminent arrivals and not questioning what I am doing.
You’re now living in the UK and working on your second book. Can you tell us a bit about it? Has it been influenced by your new life in Britain?
We’ve actually lived in two different countries in the United Kingdom after leaving New Zealand; Scotland and now England. After New Zealand, we moved to Scotland, got married in a castle and ended up living across the street from Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh. Scotland is a sincerely magical place. There are so many castles in Scotland. Scotland has amazing architecture, beautiful mountains, lochs, beaches and sweet natured people. The landscape of the Highlands is very similar to the South Island of New Zealand. I love hearing the Scottish accent everywhere you go. After living in Edinburgh, I can understand how J. K. Rowling was inspired writing Harry Potter. I lived above a used bookshop that looked like where Harry would have bought his school supplies.
I plan to divide my books by the countries I’ve lived in. My next book will be about attempting to settle in Scotland. I plan to publish it late 2014.
You decided to self-publish your memoir; what made you choose this route to publication?
For unwanted and complicated reasons we had to move to England last September. It was devastating to have to move out of Edinburgh to Sheffield, England last year for my husband graduate school. We will have to live here until summer 2014. We had more culture shock going from Scotland to England than anywhere else.
Rather than being displaced to a country I didn’t want to move to, I decided to be displaced with the goal of publishing. I’ve just completed a MA in Design. Designing, publishing and marketing my book was my dissertation project.
Although I was married in January 2012 in the UK, my marriage visa was not approved by the UK Border Agency until September 2012. During this time, I was not allowed to work, study, collect benefits or even leave because they had both my passport and my husband’s passport. This is one the main reasons I decided to go ahead and publish Getting Rooted in New Zealand. Due to my visa restrictions with the UK Border Agency, I’ve had no rights to work in the UK, but they couldn’t stop me from publishing my book.
What advice would you offer to other writers hoping to self-publish?
“No matter how wonderful our dreams, how noble our ideals, or how high our hopes, ultimately we need courage to make them a reality. Without action, it’s as if they never existed.” – Ikeda
Self-publishing is one person taking on all of the responsibilities typically held by teams of people in traditional publishing companies. It has been a steep learning curve. I’ve designed, published and have been marketing Getting Rooted in New Zealand. Writing the book was the easiest part of the process. It’s astonishingly easy to self-publish; it’s a matter of uploading PDFs. If you have a story to tell, go for it. The difficulty lies in marketing and distributing.
Which books have influenced your desire to be a writer?
My new favorite book is May I Ask You Something? by Cyan Corwine.
I personally find autobiographies interesting, but it really depends on who wrote it. Some of my favorite books are collections of funny true stories like Area Code 212 by Tama Janowitz. I’ve also enjoyed reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
Which books are you planning to read next? Do you have any that you secretly suspect you’ll never get round to?
I’d love to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ( A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson. I’d like to say I will read A Mighty Heart a memoir by Mariane Pearl, but I secretly suspect I’ll watch the movie instead.
I’m terrible for buying books and having piles of them lying around the house waiting to be read. How do you prefer to read: are you a Kindle addict, library regular or a paperback collector?
It is absolutely liberating to only live with a suitcase of belongings. I was happiest when I had the least amount of stuff. It’s been an adjustment to have furniture again. I prefer living out of a suitcase. In New Zealand, I took a lot of books out of the Auckland Central Library.
We plan to move internationally again next year and I want to keep my belongings to a minimum. Although I’ve been trying not to buy objects I have accumulated a couple of shelves worth of paperbacks.
It would make sense for me to have a Kindle, but I don’t have a Kindle. Although Getting Rooted in New Zealand is available in paperback and ebook, I’ve never actually read an ebook. I’m sure ebooks are great; I’ve never been good at keeping up with trends. I like to the look, feeling and smell of real physical books. I like to turn pages.
I designed my book cover; front, back and spine. It’s a shame that ebook readers can’t see the whole book design.
And finally, do you have any random/funny/bizarre stories about books to share with us?
I had the opportunity to write and perform for Thomas Sainsbury the most prolific playwright in New Zealand. I performed a monologue about my jobs in the Basement Theatre in Auckland. The funny thing about that experience was Tom kept me separated from the other performers until it was time to perform. I was under the impression that all the performers were foreigners giving their experiences in New Zealand. All of the other performers were professional actors telling stories that weren’t their own. At first I was mortified, but the audience seemed to enjoy my “performance,” laughing their way through my monologue. After the shows we would go out and mingle with the audience. People would ask me how long I had been acting. I would tell them, “I wasn’t acting; I have to go to work tomorrow and sit next to the girl wearing her dead dog’s collar around her neck.”
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